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Villagracia v Sharia

Full title: VIVENCIO B. VILLAGRACIA, Petitioner, vs. FIFTH (5th) SHARI'A DISTRICT COURT
and ROLDAN E. MALA, represented by his father Hadji Kalam T. Mala, Respondents.
Reference: G.R. No. 188832 / April 23, 2014
Ponente: LEONEN, J
Nature: petition for certiorari with application for issuance of TRO and/or preliminary
injunction to set aside the Shari'a District Court's decision.
Docrtine: Shari' a District Courts have no jurisdiction over real actions where one of the
parties is not a Muslim.
Facts:

Roldan E. Mala purchased a parcel of land located in Maguindanao, from one Ceres
Caete.
o

Transfer Certificate of Title covering the parcel of land was issued in Roldans
name.

At the time of the purchase, Vivencio B. Villagracia occupied the parcel of land.

Vivencio secured a Katibayan ng Orihinal na Titulo issued by the Land Registration


Authority allegedly covering the same parcel of land.

Roldan had the parcel of land surveyed.


o

In a report, Geodetic Engineer found that Vivencio occupied the parcel of land
covered by Roldans certificate of title.

To settle his conflicting claim with Vivencio, Roldan initiated barangay conciliation
proceedings before the Office of the Barangay Chairman.
o

Failing to settle with Vivencio at the barangay level, Roldan filed an action to
recover the possession of the parcel of land with respondent Fifth Sharia
District Court.

Roldan alleged that he is a Filipino Muslim; that he is the registered owner of the lot
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 15633; and that Vivencio occupied his
property, depriving him of the right to use, possess, and enjoy it.

respondent Fifth Sharia District Court ruled that Roldan, as registered owner, had the
better right to possess the parcel of land.
o

It ordered Vivencio to vacate the property, turn it over to Roldan,

Vivencio filed a petition for relief from judgment with prayer for issuance of writ of
preliminary injunction.
o

Vivencio cited Article 155, paragraph (2) of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws
of the Philippines and argued that Sharia District Courts may only hear civil
actions and proceedings if both parties are Muslims.

Considering that he is a Christian, Vivencio argued that respondent Fifth


Sharia District Court had no jurisdiction to take cognizance of Roldans action
for recovery of possession of a parcel of land.

According to respondent Fifth Sharia District Court, Vivencio cited the wrong
provision of law.
o

Article 155, paragraph (2) of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the
Philippines refers to the jurisdiction of Sharia Circuit Courts, not of Sharia
District Courts.

It ruled that it had jurisdiction over Roldans action for recovery of possession.
Regardless of Vivencio being a non-Muslim, his rights were not prejudiced
since respondent Fifth Sharia District Court decided the case applying the
provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

respondent Fifth Sharia District Court denied Vivencios petition for relief from
judgment for lack of merit.

Vivencio filed the petition for certiorari with prayer for issuance of temporary
restraining order with the SC.

Vivencio argued that respondent Fifth Sharia District Court acted without jurisdiction
in rendering the decision.
o

Under Article 143, paragraph (2)(b) of the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the
Philippines, Sharia District Courts may only take cognizance of real actions
where the parties involved are Muslims. Reiterating that he is not a Muslim,
Vivencio argued that respondent Fifth Sharia District Court had no jurisdiction
over the subject matter of Roldans action.

The SC subsequently issued a TRO enjoining the implementation of the writ of


execution against Vivencio.

Issue:
Whether a Sharia District Court may validly hear, try, and decide a real action where one
of the parties is a non-Muslim if the District Court decides the action applying the
provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines
Held:
Respondent Fifth Sharia District Court had no jurisdiction to hear, try, and decide
Roldans action for recovery of possession
Ratio:
Jurisdiction over the subject matter is "the power to hear and determine cases of the
general class to which the proceedings in question belong." 36 This power is conferred by
law,37 which may either be the Constitution or a statute. Since subject matter jurisdiction
is a matter of law, parties cannot choose, consent to, or agree as to what court or

tribunal should decide their disputes.38 If a court hears, tries, and decides an action in
which it has no jurisdiction, all its proceedings, including the judgment rendered, are
void.39
To determine whether a court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action, the
material allegations of the complaint and the character of the relief sought are
examined.40
The law conferring the jurisdiction of Sharia District Courts is the Code of the Muslim
Personal Laws of the Philippines. Under Article 143 of the Muslim Code, Sharia District
Courts have concurrent original jurisdiction with "existing civil courts" over real actions
not arising from customary contracts41 wherein the parties involved are Muslims:
ART 143. Original jurisdiction. x x x x
(2) Concurrently with existing civil courts, the Sharia District Court shall have original
jurisdiction over:
xxxx
(b) All other personal and real actions not mentioned in paragraph 1(d) 42 wherein the
parties involved are Muslims except those for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, which
shall fall under the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Municipal Circuit Court; and
xxxx
When ownership is acquired over a particular property, the owner has the right to
possess and enjoy it.43 If the owner is dispossessed of his or her property, he or she has a
right of action to recover its possession from the dispossessor.44 When the property
involved is real,45 such as land, the action to recover it is a real action;46otherwise, the
action is a personal action.47 In such actions, the parties involved must be Muslims for
Sharia District Courts to validly take cognizance of them.
In this case, the allegations in Roldans petition for recovery of possession did not state
that Vivencio is a Muslim. When Vivencio stated in his petition for relief from judgment
that he is not a Muslim, Roldan did not dispute this claim.
When it became apparent that Vivencio is not a Muslim, respondent Fifth Sharia District
Court should have motu proprio dismissed the case. Under Rule 9, Section 1 of the Rules
of Court, if it appears that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the
action based on the pleadings or the evidence on record, the court shall dismiss the
claim:
Section 1. Defenses and objections not pleaded. Defenses and objections not pleaded
either in a motion to dismiss or in the answer are deemed waived. However, when it
appears from the pleadings or the evidence on record that the court has no jurisdiction
over the subject matter, that there is another action pending between the same parties
for the same cause, or that the action is barred by a prior judgment or by statute of
limitations, the court shall dismiss the claim.

Respondent Fifth Sharia District Court had no authority under the law to decide Roldans
action because not all of the parties involved in the action are Muslims. Thus, it had no
jurisdiction over Roldans action for recovery of possession. All its proceedings in SDC
Special Proceedings Case No. 07-200 are void.
Roldan chose to file his action with the Sharia District Court, instead of filing the action
with the regular courts, to obtain "a more speedy disposition of the case." 48 This would
have been a valid argument had all the parties involved in this case been Muslims. Under
Article 143 of the Muslim Code, the jurisdiction of Sharia District Courts over real actions
not arising from customary contracts is concurrent with that of existing civil courts.
However, this concurrent jurisdiction over real actions "is applicable solely when both
parties are Muslims"49 as this court ruled in Tomawis v. Hon. Balindong.50 When one of the
parties is not a Muslim, the action must be filed before the regular courts.
The application of the provisions of the Civil Code of the Philippines by respondent Fifth
Sharia District Court does not validate the proceedings before the court. Under Article
175 of the Muslim Code, customary contracts are construed in accordance with Muslim
law.51 Hence, Sharia District Courts apply Muslim law when resolving real actions arising
from customary contracts.
In real actions not arising from contracts customary to Muslims, there is no reason for
Sharia District Courts to apply Muslim law. In such real actions, Sharia District Courts will
necessarily apply the laws of general application, which in this case is the Civil Code of
the Philippines, regardless of the court taking cognizance of the action. This is the reason
why the original jurisdiction of Sharia District Courts over real actions not arising from
customary contracts is concurrent with that of regular courts.
However, as discussed, this concurrent jurisdiction arises only if the parties involved are
Muslims. Considering that Vivencio is not a Muslim, respondent Fifth Sharia District Court
had no jurisdiction over Roldans action for recovery of possession of real property. The
proceedings before it are void, regardless of the fact that it applied the provisions of the
Civil Code of the Philippines in resolving the action.
True, no provision in the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines expressly
prohibits non-Muslims from participating in Sharia court proceedings. In fact, there are
instances when provisions in the Muslim Code apply to non-Muslims. Under Article 13 of
the Muslim Code,52 provisions of the Code on marriage and divorce apply to the female
party in a marriage solemnized according to Muslim law, even if the female is nonMuslim.53 Under Article 93, paragraph (c) of the Muslim Code,54 a person of a different
religion is disqualified from inheriting from a Muslim decedent. 55 However, by operation
of law and regardless of Muslim law to the contrary, the decedents parent or spouse who
is a non-Muslim "shall be entitled to one-third of what he or she would have received
without such disqualification."56 In these instances, non-Muslims may participate in
Sharia court proceedings.57
Nonetheless, this case does not involve any of the previously cited instances. This case
involves an action for recovery of possession of real property. As a matter of law, Sharia
District Courts may only take cognizance of a real action "wherein the parties involved
are Muslims."58 Considering that one of the parties involved in this case is not a Muslim,
respondent Fifth Sharia District Court had no jurisdiction to hear, try, and decide the
action for recovery of possession of real property. The judgment against Vivencio is void

for respondent Fifth Sharia District Courts lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter of
the action.
That Vivencio raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter only after
respondent Fifth Sharia District Court had rendered judgment is immaterial. A party may
assail the jurisdiction of a court or tribunal over a subject matter at any stage of the
proceedings, even on appeal.59 The reason is that "jurisdiction is conferred by law, and
lack of it affects the very authority of the court to take cognizance of and to render
judgment on the action."60
In Figueroa v. People of the Philippines,61 Venancio Figueroa was charged with reckless
imprudence resulting in homicide before the Regional Trial Court of Bulacan. The trial
court convicted Figueroa as charged. On appeal with the Court of Appeals, Figueroa
raised for the first time the issue of jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Court to decide the
case. Ruling that the Regional Trial Court had no jurisdiction over the crime charged, this
court dismissed the criminal case despite the fact that Figueroa objected to the trial
courts jurisdiction only on appeal.
In Metromedia Times Corporation v. Pastorin,62 Johnny Pastorin filed a complaint for
constructive dismissal against Metromedia Times Corporation. Metromedia Times
Corporation actively participated in the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter. When the
Labor Arbiter ruled against Metromedia Times, it appealed to the National Labor Relations
Commission, arguing for the first time that the Labor Arbiter had no jurisdiction over the
complaint. According to Metromedia Times, the case involved a grievance issue "properly
cognizable by the voluntary arbitrator."63 This court set aside the decision of the Labor
Arbiter on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter despite the fact that
the issue of jurisdiction was raised only on appeal.
There are exceptional circumstances when a party may be barred from assailing the
jurisdiction of the court to decide a case. In the 1968 case of Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, 64 the
Spouses Tijam sued the Spouses Sibonghanoy on July 19, 1948 before the Court of First
Instance of Cebu to recover P1,908.00. At that time, the court with exclusive original
jurisdiction to hear civil actions in which the amount demanded does not
exceed P2,000.00 was the court of justices of the peace and municipal courts in
chartered cities under Section 88 of the Judiciary Act of 1948.
As prayed for by the Spouses Tijam in their complaint, the Court of First Instance issued a
writ of attachment against the Spouses Sibonghanoy. However, the latter filed a counterbond issued by Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. Thus, the Court of First Instance
dissolved the writ of attachment.
After trial, the Court of First Instance decided in favor of the Spouses Tijam. When the
writ of execution returned unsatisfied, the Spouses Tijam moved for the issuance of a writ
of execution against Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc.s bond. The Court of First
Instance granted the motion. Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. moved to quash the writ
of execution, which motion the Court of First Instance denied. Thus, the surety company
appealed to the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals sustained the Court of First Instances decision. Five days after
receiving the Court of Appeals decision, Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. filed a motion
to dismiss, arguing for the first time that the Court of First Instance had no jurisdiction

over the subject matter of the case. The Court of Appeals forwarded the case to this
court for resolution.
This court ruled that the surety company could no longer assail the jurisdiction of the
Court of First Instance on the ground of estoppel by laches. Parties may be barred from
assailing the jurisdiction of the court over the subject matter of the action if it took them
an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to object to the courts
jurisdiction.65 This is to discourage the deliberate practice of parties in invoking the
jurisdiction of a court to seek affirmative relief, only to repudiate the courts jurisdiction
after failing to obtain the relief sought.66 In such cases, the courts lack of jurisdiction
over the subject matter is overlooked in favor of the public policy of discouraging such
inequitable and unfair conduct.67
In Tijam, it took Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. 15 years before assailing the
jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance. As early as 1948, the surety company became a
party to the case when it issued the counter-bond to the writ of attachment. During trial,
it invoked the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance by seeking several affirmative
reliefs, including a motion to quash the writ of execution. The surety company only
assailed the jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance in 1963 when the Court of Appeals
affirmed the lower courts decision. This court said:
x x x x Were we to sanction such conduct on [Manila Surety and Fidelity, Co. Inc.s] part,
We would in effect be declaring as useless all the proceedings had in the present case
since it was commenced on July 19, 1948 and compel [the spouses Tijam] to go up their
Calvary once more.
The inequity and unfairness of this is not only patent but revolting. 68
After this court had rendered the decision in Tijam, this court observed that the "nonwaivability of objection to jurisdiction"69 has been ignored, and the Tijam doctrine has
become more the general rule than the exception.
In Calimlim v. Ramirez,70 this court said:
A rule that had been settled by unquestioned acceptance and upheld in decisions so
numerous to cite is that the jurisdiction of a court over the subject-matter of the action is
a matter of law and may not be conferred by consent or agreement of the parties. The
lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on
appeal. This doctrine has been qualified by recent pronouncements which stemmed
principally from the ruling in the cited case of [Tijam v. Sibonghanoy]. It is to be
regretted, however, that the holding in said case had been applied to situations which
were obviously not contemplated therein. x x x.71
Thus, the court reiterated the "unquestionably accepted"72 rule that objections to a
courts jurisdiction over the subject matter may be raised at any stage of the
proceedings, even on appeal. This is because jurisdiction over the subject matter is a
"matter of law"73 and "may not be conferred by consent or agreement of the parties." 74
In Figueroa,75 this court ruled that the Tijam doctrine "must be applied with great
care;"76 otherwise, the doctrine "may be a most effective weapon for the accomplishment
of injustice":77

x x x estoppel, being in the nature of a forfeiture, is not favored by law. It is to be applied


rarely only from necessity, and only in extraordinary circumstances. The doctrine must
be applied with great care and the equity must be strong in its favor. When misapplied,
the doctrine of estoppel may be a most effective weapon for the accomplishment of
injustice. x x x a judgment rendered without jurisdiction over the subject matter is void. x
x x. No laches will even attach when the judgment is null and void for want of jurisdiction
x x x.78
In this case, the exceptional circumstances similar to Tijam do not exist. Vivencio never
invoked respondent Fifth Sharia District Courts jurisdiction to seek affirmative relief. He
filed the petition for relief from judgment precisely to assail the jurisdiction of respondent
Fifth Sharia District Court over Roldans petition for recovery of possession.
Thus, the general rule holds. Vivencio validly assailed the jurisdiction of respondent Fifth
Sharia District Court over the action for recovery of possession for lack of jurisdiction
over the subject matter of Roldans action.

The Sharia Appellate Court and the


Office of the Jurisconsult in Islamic
law must now be organized to
effectively enforce the Muslim legal
system in the Philippines
We note that Vivencio filed directly with this court his petition for certiorari of respondent
Fifth Sharia District Courts decision. Under the judicial system in Republic Act No.
9054,97 the Sharia Appellate Court has exclusive original jurisdiction over petitions for
certiorari of decisions of the Sharia District Courts. He should have filed his petition for
certiorari before the Sharia Appellate Court.
However, the Sharia Appellate Court is yet to be organized.1wphi1 Thus, we call for the
organization of the court system created under Republic Act No. 9054 to effectively
enforce the Muslim legal system in our country. After all, the Muslim legal system a
legal system complete with its own civil, criminal, commercial, political, international,
and religious laws98 is part of the law of the land,99 and Sharia courts are part of the
Philippine judicial system.100
Sharia Circuit Courts and Sharia District Courts created under the Code of Muslim
Personal Laws of the Philippines shall continue to discharge their duties. 101 All cases tried
in Sharia Circuit Courts shall be appealable to Sharia District Courts.[[102]
The Sharia Appellate Court created under Republic Act No. 9054 shall exercise appellate
jurisdiction over all cases tried in the Sharia District Courts. 103 It shall also exercise
original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, habeas corpus,
and other auxiliary writs and processes in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. 104 The decisions
of the Sharia Appellate Court shall be final and executory, without prejudice to the
original and appellate jurisdiction of this court.105
This court held in Tomawis v. Hon. Balindong106 that "until such time that the Sharia
Appellate Court shall have been organized,"107 decisions of the Sharia District Court shall

be appealable to the Court of Appeals and "shall be referred to a Special Division to be


organized in any of the [Court of Appeals] stations preferably composed of Muslim [Court
of Appeals] Justices."108 However, considering that To m a w i s was not yet promulgated
when Vivencio filed his petition for certiorari on August 6, 2009, we take cognizance of
Vivencios petition for certiorari in the exercise of our original jurisdiction over petitions
for certiorari.109
Moreover, priority should be given in organizing the Office of the Jurisconsult in Islamic
law. A Jurisconsult in Islamic law or "Mufti" is an officer with authority to render legal
opinions or "fatawa"110 on any questions relating to Muslim law.111 These legal opinions
should be based on recognized authorities112 and "must be rendered in precise
accordance with precedent."113 In the Philippines where only Muslim personal laws are
codified, a legal officer learned in the Quran and Hadiths is necessary to assist this court
as well as Sharia court judges in resolving disputes not involving Muslim personal laws.
All told, Sharia District Courts have jurisdiction over a real action only when the parties
involved are Muslims. Respondent Fifth Sharia District Court acted without jurisdiction in
taking cognizance of Roldan E. Malas action for recovery of possession considering that
Vivencio B. Villagracia is not a Muslim. Accordingly, the proceedings in SDC Special
Proceedings Case No. 07-200, including the judgment rendered, are void.
WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is GRANTED. Respondent Fifth Sharia District
Courts decision dated June 11, 2008 and order dated May 29, 2009 in SDC Special
Proceedings Case No. 07-200 are SET ASIDE without prejudice to the filing of respondent
Roldan E. Mala of an action with the proper court.
SO ORDERED.